• The Right to Boycott

    An open letter from writers

    September 23, 2019

    Image courtesy: The Independent

    It is with dismay that we learned of the decision of the City of Dortmund to rescind the Nelly Sachs Award for Literature from Kamila Shamsie because of her stated commitment to the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

    As a statement by more than forty progressive Jewish organisations says, ‘dangerously [conflating] anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid … undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.’

    In Germany, the attacks on BDS are among the most fierce. In May 2019 the Bundestag passed a motion labelling the movement as antisemitic. Yet on 13 September, the Administrative Court of Cologne became the third court in the country to rule in favour of the right to boycott.

    In its ruling the court wrote: ‘The motions of the Bonn City Council … and the German Bundestag (17 May 2019), do not constitute legislative acts but are political resolutions or expressions of political will. These motions alone cannot justify, from any legal perspective, the restriction of an existing legal right.’

    Yet a few days later, the City of Dortmund chose to punish an author for her human rights advocacy while simultaneously refusing to make public the statement she wrote on learning of the decision.

    So we publish Kamila Shamsie’s statement here:

    In the just concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of international law, and his political opponent Benny Gantz’s objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces – which was condemned as ‘appalling’ by the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process. In this political context, the jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize has chosen to withdraw the award from me on the basis of my support for a non-violent campaign to bring pressure on the Israeli government. It is a matter of great sadness to me that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression; and it is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust.

    What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression, and the freedom to criticise? Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.

     Khalid Abdalla
     Alaa Abd el-Fattah
     Sharif Abdel Kouddous
     Nadia Abu el-Haj
     Diana Abu-Jaber
     Susan Abulhawa
     Lila Abu-Lughod
     Maan Abu Taleb
     Ammiel Alcalay
     Kazim Ali
     Nir Alon
     Hanan Al-Shayk
     Carlos Manuel Álvarez
     Suad Amiry
     Tahmima Anam
     Sinan Antoon
     Lisa Appignanesi
     Nicole Aragi
     Arnold Aronson
     Elsa Auerbach
     Zeina Azzam
     Kafah Bachari
     Sunandini Banerjee
     Frank Barat
     Mourid Barghouti
     Josh Begley
     Joel Beinin
     Linda Benedikt
     Phyllis Bennis
     Susan Bernofsky
     Omar Berrada
     Dwayne Betts
     Akeel Bilgrami
     Nicholas Blincoe
     Leah Borromeo
     Brian Boyd
     Victoria Brittain
     Virginia Brown
     Simone Browne
     Jehan Bseiso
     Victoria Adukwei Bulley
     John Burnside
     Margaret Busby
     Diana Buttu
     Carmen Callil
     Juan Cárdenas
     Zeynep Celik
     Hayan Charara
     Amit Chaudhuri
     Anne Chisholm (Vice President
     Royal Society of Literature)
     Noam Chomsky
     Susannah Clapp
     Jennifer Clement (President
     PEN International)
     J.M. Coetzee
     Teju Cole
     Michael Collier
     Irene Cooper
     Cindy Corrie
     Craig Corrie
     Molly Crabapple
     Selma Dabbagh
     William Dalrymple
     Najwan Darwish
     Katy Derbyshire
     Kiran Desai
     Natalie Diaz
     Laurence Dreyfus
     Marlene Dumas
     Hilda Dunn
     Geoff Dyer
     Barbara Ehrenreich
     Ben Ehrenreich
     Deborah Eisenberg
     Inua Ellams
     Pary El-Qalqili
     Annie Ernaux
     Brian Eno
     Nick Estes
     Richard Falk
     Rose Fenton
     Sylvia Finzi
     Erica Fischer
     Adam Foulds
     Maureen Freely (Chair
     English PEN)
     Duranya Freeman
     John Freeman
     Ru Freeman
     Esther Freud
     Ruth Fruchtman
     Tess Gallagher
     Cristina Garcia
     Tomer Gardi
     Suzanne Gardinier
     Apoorva Gautam
     Ashish George
     Ralph Ghoche
     Noelle Ghoussaini
     Eileen Gillooly
     Georgina Godwin
     David Gorin
     Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
     Abdulrazak Gurnah
     Subhi Hadidi
     Rawi Hage
     Omar Robert Hamilton
     Yasmeen Hanoosh
     Jeremy Harding
     Githa Hariharan
     Joseph Harris
     Rodrigo Hasbún
     Iris Hefets
     Jehan Helou
     Mischa Hiller
     Marianne Hirsch
     Jane Hirschmann
     Elizabeth Hodges
     Rachel Holmes
     Amy Horowitz
     Jennifer Ruth Hosek
     Jean Howard
     Aamer Hussein
     Kim Jensen
     Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres
     Lucy Jones
     Fady Joudah
     Louis Kampf
     Remi Kanazi
     Brigid Keenan
     A.L. Kennedy
     Omar el Khairy
     Mona Khalidi
     Rashid Khalidi
     Hannah Khalil
     Shamus Khan
     Naveen Kishore
     Naomi Klein
     Alexander Kluge
     Nancy Kricorian
     Hari Kunzru
     Rachel Kushner
     Olivia Laing
     Nick Laird
     Laila Lalami
     Léopold Lambert
     Patrick Langley
     Paul Lauter
     Paul Laverty
     Kiese Laymon
     Mason Leaver-Yap
     Marie Myung-Ok Lee
     Ben Lerner
     Alan Levine
     Richard A. Levy
     Ken Loach
     Zachary Lockman
     Claudia Castro Luna
     Ruth Luschnat
     Sabrina Mahfouz
     Jamal Mahjoub
     Lori Marso
     Yann Martel
     Dave Mason
     Ahmed Masoud
     Zeinab Masud
     Diana Matar
     Hisham Matar
     Khaled Mattawa
     Farid Matuk
     Nyla Matuk
     Colum McCann
     John McCarthy
     Tom McCarthy
     Fiona McCrae
     Sarah McNally
     Askold Melnyczuk
     Helaine Meisler
     Maaza Mengiste
     Ritu Menon
     Christopher Merrill
     Lina Meruane
     Brinkley Messick
     Claire Messud
     China Miéville
     Gail Miller
     Pankaj Mishra
     W.J.T. Mitchell
     Nadifa Mohamed
     Aja Monet
     Jenny Morgan
     Benjamin Moser
     Michel Moushabek
     Jack Murchie
     Nancy Murray
     Eileen Myles
     Karma Nabulsi
     Karthika Naïr
     Mary Jane Nealon
     Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
     Marcy Newman
     Donna Nevel
     Viet Thanh Nguyen
     Lulu Norman
     Naomi Shihab Nye
     John Oakes
     Andrew O’Hagan
     Richard Ohmann
     Ben Okri
     Michael Ondaatje
     Susie Orbach
     Ursula Owen
     David Palumbo-Liu
     Nii Ayikwei Parkes
     William Parry
     Shailja Patel
     Ian Patterson
     Ed Pavlic
     Jeremy Pikser
     Shahina Piyarali
     Sheldon Pollock
     Vijay Prashad
     Paul B. Preciado
     Alexandra Pringle
     Rania Qawasmah
     Shazea Quraishi
     Charles Rice-Gonzalez
     Cynthia Rimsky
     Bruce Robbins
     Sally Rooney
     Constancia Dinky Romilly
     Jacqueline Rose
     Andrew Ross
     Alice Rothchild
     Pru Rowlandson
     Bee Rowlatt
     Arundhati Roy
     Joe Sacco
     Nayantara Sahgal
     Mariam C. Said
     Rebecca Saletan
     Preeta Samarasan
     Sapphire
     Shuchi Saraswat
     George Saunders
     James Schamus
     Sarah Schulman
     Felicity Scott
     Stephen Sedley
     Karen Seeley
     Gamini Seneviratne
     Rachel Shabi
     Elhum Shakerifar
     Anton Shammas
     Solmaz Sharif
     Adam Shatz
     Raja Shehadeh
     Farhana Sheikh
     Jack Shenker
     Adania Shibli
     Ahmad Shirazi
     Ann Shirazi
     Avi Shlaim
     Marc Siegel
     Rick Simonson
     Tom Sleigh
     Gillian Slovo
     Nirit Sommerfeld
     Ahdaf Soueif
     Linda Spalding
     Gloria Steinem
     Amy Kepple Strawser
     William Sutcliffe
     Billie Swift
     Janne Teller
     Kate Tempest
     Jacques Testard
     Madeleine Thien
     T.C. Tolbert
     Carles Torner (Executive Director, PEN International)
     Salil Tripathi (Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee for PEN International)
     Monique Truong
     Jennifer Tseng
     Chika Unigwe
     Tanya Ury
     Karen Van Dyck
     Lawrence Venuti
     Margo Viscusi
     Gauri Viswanathan
     Ocean Vinh Vuong
     Dirk Wanrooij
     Roger Waters
     Marina Warner
     Terry Weber
     Eliot Weinberger
     Irvine Welsh
     Ben White
     Mabel Wilson
     Jeanette Winterson
     Jacqueline Woodson
     Jay G. Ying
     Mona Younis
     Dorothy M. Zellner
     Alia Trabucco Zerán


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